It was a beautiful morning. Evans walked to the center of Major Kestel’s castle’s garden and sat down at a table across from her, “Morning Demi.”

“Morning Jim.”

“Well, first off, what’s your guest list?”

Major Kestel picked up a list and started reading off of it, “Traditionally, I should invite all of Second Battalion Officers, All members of Fox Company, all 202nd staff officers, and all officers above me in the chain of command. I also should invite all nobility of nations we are not currently at war with. The Oligarchs also of course. Other officers to be invited are Captain Reilly from the 137th, Lieutenant Kelly from the 23rd Artillery, Captain Thompson of the 5th Intelligence, Captain Stoddart, Lieutenant Atkinson from the 351st. Captain Campbell, Commander Blair, and Lieutenant Commander Bain from the Indefatigable. Any officers from my Naval Infantry Battalion still alive. I would also like the crew of the Duchess Medway’s Own. Of those, my Honor Guard will be Captain Gates, Captain Reilly, Captain Thompson, and Lieutenant Kelly. And Jim, you will have to serve as my escort, which means you will have to select a team of eight, including you for a rifle salute. Do you have anyone in mind right now?”

“Yes Ma’am, Polly, Tiscornia, Newey, Ustinov, Turner,  and an Ensign Chambers from an Intelligence unit… Is it alright to have an officer in the team?”

“Yes, because, well, due to tradition the team will be named soldiers of Medway and be given traditional Medwayan ranks and uniforms. You will be Pike Sergeant Captain James Evans. So who is this Ensign Chambers?”

“Permission to speak stupidly Ma’am?”

“Yes Jim?”

“She was a runner in Fox before you came along. Every time we’ve met up since she’s asked if I could introduce her to you.”

“So why is she an officer?”

“I believe you mean how is she an officer?” Evans sat back in his chair, “Lucy was heavily wounded in my rescue of that Lieutenant. After all the surgeries, she was too weak to go back to frontline duties, but before they drummed her out, someone figured out that she spoke Vledscan and Moravian and transferred her to Intelligence. And apparently Translators are required to be officers in Intelligence, so she was given a promotion to Ensign and sent to a modified Officers’ Training School. Also, I’d like to have Lance Corporal Jack Shaw of the 351st. I believe he’s in Lieutenant Atkinson’s Platoon. He was my best friend from Halton.”

“I censor all of your letters Jim, I know who Jack is,” Major Kestel sighed, looked at her list, and looked back at Evans, saying, “But that list sounds good. You’ll need to get their sizes for the uniforms. And they will all be named Pike Corporals.”

“What about your Honor Guard Ma’am? Do they need special uniforms?”

“Yes, they’ll be named Knight Commanders of the Medwayan Army and given specially made armor,” Major Kestel giggled, then continued, “They have to wear fancy plate armor from hundreds of years ago. And your wife will not have to make those, we can hire a blacksmith. Unless Anna has some hidden metalworking talent you have not mentioned.”

“Not that I know of Demi. Though I do think some of her cousins are Puddlers back in Silesia. Maybe she picked up some from them.”

“EVANS EVANS EVANS EVANS” Polly ran shouting into the garden.

“What Polly?”

“Anna! She’s…” Polly bent over and took a few breaths before continuing, “Gone into Labor.”

Evans smiled, looked at Major Kestel, and said, “Permission to leave Demi?”

“Yes, go to your wife James.”

“Thank you.” Evans got up and followed Polly, who led him through the twisting corridors of the castle until they found the front gate.

“She’s in your cottage. A nurse and midwife are with her.”

Evans took off at full sprint, leaving the exhausted Polly behind to walk the rest of the way. It took him what seemed like an eternity to cover the distance. He arrived at the door and jiggled the handle. Stuck a bit. He picked up his right foot to kick in the door. As his foot came down, the door opened, and he hit the nurse square in the chest. The nurse fell backward and flailed his arms. Evans tumbled forward onto the nurse, taking both of them to the floor. The nurse muttered something under his breath and pointed to the master bedroom. Evans stood up, ran over, and opened the door.


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